Reflections Unit: “Who Am I?”
In this unit, we produced many projects that encouraged us to reflect on who we are, on society and to open our eyes to other people’s perspectives and ideas and how we portray how we feel. We started out the year by writing personal essays in English. These essays were focused around our core values and events that cultivated them. In Digital Media, we recorded them so that the audience could hear our own inflections when reading to give it an even more personal touch. We also created perspective videos to share an opinion we have. Lastly, we created these websites to showcase our work. In Design, we began by making aboriginal paintings, which is essentially paintings created with primarily dots and some lines. We also created collages, practicing using shapes and color. We created a collage made up of magazine pieces and then made another collage where we traced our first one and made it a monochromatic painting of its basic shapes.
Having this unit’s question be, “Who am I?” We are encouraged to see what we value and how that fits into society and how we interact with others who may or may not have the same opinion as us. I think that the personal essay was the hardest project for me to do in this unit as I shared my perspective and tried to make it as clear and concise as possible. I’ve spent long hours perfecting it and making sure it’s well written. But I would go through it all again to get it to where it is now. I’ve been able to learn a lot about myself through this project and I’m proud of what I’ve written.
Writing our personal essays as a part of Freestyle is meant to be a way of helping seniors reduce their stress level and to help us write the best essay possible for colleges. I wrote my personal essay about my experience living overseas in West Africa and what it was like coming back to the U.S and moving to the Silicon Valley. A large theme in my personal essay is the idea of community. Community is huge in West Africa and something that was always around me. We constantly had people at our house, cooking food, playing, there was always something going on. Here, people are wrapped up in their jobs, school, extracricuulars and don’t have a lot of time to just sit down and talk with one another. So that’s something that is important to me, taking time out of your day to check in with others and to be together. Through this essay, I was able to determine what is most important to me and what it is that I value.
7, 104 Miles
I never thought I’d be able to come back. I never imagined I’d feel so happy to breathe in the pungent smell from garbage lining the streets, fish left out to dry and the ever-present tang of sweat. Following our guide, my dad and I meandered through the small shanties in the village and the memories of my childhood here came rushing back. But when I saw Mammie and Musu, I knew I was home at last. We ran towards each other and were trapped in a strong embrace, tears welling in our eyes. Finally, after eight years, traveling for over 24 hours, across 7,104 miles, I was back home in Liberia.
When I was five years old, my parents decided to move our family to the West Coast of Africa. They volunteered full-time with Mercy Ships, a nonprofit organization providing free surgeries aboard hospital ships sailing along the West Coast of Africa. At the time, we were living at their headquarters in rural Texas. My parents saw an opportunity for my brother and I to experience a new culture. We moved to the ship in Ghana, and three months later the ship sailed to Liberia.
While in Liberia, our family adopted my little sister, Keyara. Problems with immigration delayed our return to the U.S, leaving us in Liberia for another year. Mammie and Musu were some of the first locals we met and became my nannies. They welcomed me with open arms into their community by teaching me their tribal dances and bringing me small treats from the market bought with their meager salaries. I was accepted and loved as though I was one of their own. This was the confirmation I needed that this new environment could be my community. Life wasn’t easy for them. Soon after arriving, I started to understand what life was like for people in Liberia. Due to lack of funds, I saw children working instead of going to school, sick people turned away from the hospital and children dying. Oftentimes, parents didn’t know how to read or write and lacked resources to send their children to school. It seemed hopeless and yet they still persevered.
My return to the U.S in December 2009 to Los Altos, California, was a harder transition. I cried almost daily, begging my parents to move back. I didn’t want to talk to other people, especially those my age. I isolated myself and became withdrawn. Things and people that should be familiar and feel like home were the opposite. I just wanted to see Mammie and Musu again.
Los Altos was extremely different from Liberia. Not just the miles between them but the contrast in attitude and world perspective. I heard people talking about the vacations they were going to take to luxurious places. Money seemed to never be an issue and opportunities were plentiful. Everywhere I looked people had more than you could imagine yet it wasn’t enough.
The stark contrast between these two communities left me wondering where I stood. It felt so unfair. Of course, I realized most people didn’t understand how others lived but I was unsettled, as though I had one foot in each world.
I saw the possibility that being an advocate could bridge the gap I felt. I struggled knowing where to begin. Then, my family started a non-profit called Keyara’s Gift, with the purpose of providing education and healthcare to Liberians. It was through this that I found my place. Returning to Liberia in 2017 and 2018, I interviewed and photographed students applying for Keyara’s Gift.
This work has settled me with a sense of direction. It brings me satisfaction knowing students are receiving health care and an education, through Keyara’s Gift. Although many are in need, knowing that Mammie and Musu’s grandchildren are among nearly one hundred being sponsored by our nonprofit makes the endeavor especially rewarding.
The perspective piece is a way of sharing one of our opinions with others. We wrote an at least one min speech about something we’re passionate about and are willing to share with others. Then, we created a video using After Effects with images from the internet to add to our perspective and add a visual component.
And here is my final video down below.
As I mentioned above in the Introduction paragraph, the first project we completed in Design was our aboriginal paintings. We had to choose an animal that we wanted to paint. I chose a stingray for this project. Aboriginal paintings are made up of only dots and a few lines so we had to be selective in what we chose for our painting. Here is my final painting below.
Moving onto our collage project, we went through multiple different magazines, cutting out people, animals, and objects that we found interesting. We weren’t supposed to have a theme for our collage, just to find images we found unique and to then try and put random pieces together, creating a bigger picture. Once I found the caribou in a National Geographic magazine, I knew I wanted to use it in my collage as one of the central images. I was then lucky enough to find an image of a woman sitting in a tree so I cut her out and decided to have her settle in amongst the antlers. Those two pieces together are my favorite part of the collage. Once getting all of our pieces together, we glued them down to make our final product, our completed collages.
After completing our magazine collages, we scanned them and taped them onto a new board. We then took a piece of tracing paper and graphite paper and traced out the basic shapes of our magazine objects. We then mixed a new color to paint with. We could only use that color, shades, tints, and tones of it for our painting as we were using a monochromatic color scheme. I mixed together what I would describe as a forest green. Each object had to be painted a different color and if there was a line going through an object that separated it then we’d have to paint part of it a new color as well. So we mixed a lot of tints, tones, and shades to create our final product.
I’ve really enjoyed all of the projects that we’ve completed in this unit in Design so far. I don’t really consider myself an “artistic” person, per say or someone who is “gifted” or “talented” in the arts so these projects helped me to understand more of the basic prinicples and elements of design for which I’m really grateful. I think that now that we’ve learned and worked more on basic desgin skills, it’ll carry over to my work and make it look more professional and better. I’m super excited for what we have in the future for our design projects and I hope what I’ve learned in this unit will help me become the best designer and artist I can be.